Monday, July 13, 2009

All You Magazine Grocery Challenge

All You magazine is having a grocery challenge for the next four weeks. I decided to enter the challenge to see if I could feed our family of eight on $25 per person per week. Our very youngest is too young to count for the challenge, so we count as seven, which comes to $175 per week.

Introducing our family:
We are a family of eight, with six adults and two tiny children:
Dad: Chuck
Mom: Adie
20-year-old daughter: Greta
19-year-old son: David
married daughter: Heather
son-in-law: Jared
19-month-old grandson: Luke
one-month-old grandson: Patrick

(Mom's taking the picture!)

Heather and Jared have been living with us for the past eight months because Jared lost his job over a year ago after a motorcycle accident and long recovery. Once they moved in with us, he was able to find two part-time jobs, but together he doesn’t work 40 hours a week. He is actively seeking a better paying, permanent, full-time job. Heather is presently on maternity leave from her part-time job. She was working from home as an enrollment coordinator before Patrick was born.

We live in suburban Atlanta in a three-bedroom, two-bath home. Greta and David are in college at the state university eight miles from our house. They have been attending summer school this summer, and they commute to campus four days a week. They both also have part-time jobs. Chuck commutes to work; he is a software developer. Adie is a homemaker, but considers her frugality a part-time job.

Before the challenge began, I made several decisions:
I want this to be sustainable for the long term, rather than a short term project where I use up all of my stash and not replenish for the future, just to get my total as low as possible. Therefore I will continue to shop the sales with coupons, and look for good deals. I will also stockpile when pantry items and freezer items are on a good sale, especially BOGO with doubled coupons.

I have a large pantry, fully stocked with the raw ingredients that we use regularly. I will continue to use from it, and replenish with sale items. I also have a small chest freezer (garage sale purchase in June) that I already filled with meats, veggies, and baked goods. I will pull from that stock also, replenishing with sale items.

I will shop at Publix on Mondays to get the Mystery Q item, and shop at Kroger on Wednesdays to get the 5% senior discount (Kroger has a very low age for the senior discount; I barely qualify). I will fill in with shopping at Aldi and Costco on an as-needed basis.

I will continue to use my menu rotation plans that I created several months ago. I have 8 weeks of plans that I rotate through.

The adults will drink water as their main beverage. I don’t buy soda or bottled water or alcohol. We have a stainless steel water bottle for every person in the family and we fill those when going out. Our tap water is filtered because of chlorine allergies, and it tastes just as good as bottled water. We have cups on the kitchen counter for drinks at home, each with initials painted on it. This cuts down on washing dirty glasses.

I had already given the family responsibility for preparing their own breakfasts and lunches. The rule is “make your own and clean up afterwards”. This will continue during the challenge. Breakfast choices are usually: real oatmeal, homemade granola, eggs how you like them or hardboiled eggs which are almost always in the refrigerator, fresh fruit, yogurt (plain and flavored), create your own smoothie, pancake or waffle makings, and sometimes some dry cereal. Leftovers too, if they want. Lunch possibilities include sandwiches, salads, cook up some pasta, hot dogs sometimes, and leftovers. The best leftovers go quickly!

Greta’s boyfriend joins us for dinner very frequently. This will still continue. I won’t deny the invite just to keep my costs low!

I will cook and bake from scratch as much as I can.

I used to make a lot of our bread, using wheat berries I ground into flour in my mill. But my mill broke last year and we haven’t been able to afford to replace it yet. Now I purchase most of our whole grain bread at the Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet a few times a month. I freeze what we won’t use immediately.

I planted a veggie garden again this spring, expecting to have fresh tomatoes and squash all summer. This year, a mammalian-something attacked it and killed all my plants just as they were beginning to produce big fruit. I’m so disappointed we won’t have yummy fresh veggies this year and quite disgusted at those critters for stealing all the green tomatoes. My total summer harvest was one gnawed-on yellow squash and zero tomatoes.
I will buy the double-bundled Sunday paper when available. This gives me double the number of coupon inserts. A double bundled paper is only 50 cents more than a single paper.

I look forward to seeing what I can do with this challenge. I hope we will continue to eat well during the next four weeks, but that we will also be more conscious of our costs.

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